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Audi S7 Beautiful, but Difficult to Drive Smoothly

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We began this year with a string of new high performance Audi sedans – S6, S7 and S8.  We have not gotten to the S8 yet, but the S6 and S7 are pretty similar cars so lets concentrate on the S7 fastback.  Think of the A7/S7 as Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe.  The S7 is a four-door coupe with a very fast backlite and large rear hatch.  Opening the rear hatch reveals a huge rear cargo area.  While the S7 has a very sporty profile, its design has sacrificed ingress/egress in the front and especially rear seats.  The style limits rear seat headroom and the legroom in the rear is also down a bit from the three box S6 sedan.

Interior Par for the course, the S7’s sport interior is special with great attention to detail, great fit and finish and a very upscale ambiance.

No Fingerprints, Please Audi ‘s multi media interface (MMI) continues with controls on the center console not a touchscreen.  The Audi MMI is easy to use and somewhat intuitive once you have used it a few times, but it would fail the rental car test (unfamiliar car in a rental car lot at midnight in the driving rain).  Unlike its brethren Volkswagen and Porsche that now use touchscreens, Audi has stayed away from them because fingerprints on the screen are unsightly.

Get the Comfort Seat Package In the S7, the black and lunar silver interior is tasteful, but the seat bolsters are too aggressive for casual driving.  At this price, the seats in the S7 should have power adjustable cushion and back bolsters so you can have either a very supportive seat that you fit snugly in or a wide open seat that lets you move around however you want to.  Sure the “S cars” are sport performance models, but at $94,570 for the S7, there should be loads of comfort as well.  Recognizing this, Audi offers a comfort seat option for $1,950 that provide heating, cooling, massage and memory functions.  Unfortunately, the comfort seats are available only in black Valcona leather not the silver/white leather in the evaluation S7.

Featherlight Toe on the Accelerator But the sport seats weren’t the only thing that presented a problem.  The S-Cars are powered by a 420-horsepower 4.0L V8 with twin turbochargers and cylinder on demand.  Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s great Quattro all wheel drive system, this car should be a real pleasure to drive.  Lots of horsepower and torque.  Effortless V8 with turbos!  Wow.  But it isn’t a pleasure to drive.  Tip-in the accelerator and there is a hesitation that makes you shy about merging into traffic from a stop unless you stomp on it.  Maybe it’s the performance setting in the MMI?  Comfort?  The same.  Auto?  The same.  Dynamic?  The same… even worse.  Once you get the S7 rolling, it is delightful.  The throaty rumble of the engine is joyous.  But getting up to speed takes a featherlight touch of the toe to do smoothly.

So, the S7 is really for a person who wants upscale coupe styling and a lot of power.  It’s not for a person who needs to provide rear seat space or comfort.  The S7 is a car that turns heads and likes to be driven at speed, but it is a touchy low speed cruiser.


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BMW Concept CS: Bavaria Prepares a New Four-Door Coupe

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Sporting Luxury: Four-Door, Four Seat Coupe Blends Sport and Luxury, Emphasis on Sport
As Porsche prepares the Panamera and Aston Martin the Rapide and as Mercedes-Benz saw some success early with the CLS four-door coupe, BMW is developing their own take on this recent sporty, luxurious four-door coupe formula. In an indication of automaker’s growing interest in China, as well as the penchant of China’s wealthiest population for ultra-luxury vehicles and BMW, BMW’s first worldwide concept car introduction in China was of the CS concept at the April 2007 Shanghai auto show. (CS for Coupe Sedan.)

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EDITOR’s 2¢: The BMW Concept CS evolves BMW’s sporty flame surfacing to a much more mature and sophisticated look. The car looks taut and serious from the sides. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific see a fundamental problem with the approach being taken by the European carmakers. They are abandoning function for form. Clearly, the CLS, Panamera, Rapide and CS are beautiful cars, but as Mercedes has found with the CLS, they are difficult for a driver to live with. The rear seat in these cars is practically useless. And the rear doors in the 4-door bodystyle are only good for tossing a briefcase in. Our prediction: the buff books will love these cars, they will sell well at first to the Rodeo Drive crowd, but in the long run, they will act like sporty cars – popular for 12 to 18 months before fading out.
BMW’s upcoming four-door, four-seat coupe will go up against the Porsche and the Aston, as well as bridge a bit of the gap between 7-Series and Rolls-Royce. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it called 8-Series when it arrives, though this is not confirmed. The Concept CS is wider than the current 7-Series, though with a similar wheelbase and not quite as much overall length, and larger than the E-Class-based Mercedes CLS. The production car will look to 7-Series components for a platform, but indications are that BMW is planning this car as a low-volume proposition.
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More will come as we learn it, but for now we’re happy to bring you the first official photos. The CS evolves the famously controversial BMW flame surfacing, resulting a crisp and dynamic look from the side and rear. The vehicle’s face, however, is simply awful. The kidney grille is much too large, and it looks more or less as though BMW is trying to create a wide-mouth, deep grille look similar to the one Audi is cultivating. The headlights sport a new technology that gives them a hooded look, and we can’t imagine why you’d want your sports tourer to look sleepy. BMW says the huge kidney grille is functional and would serve as the primary air supply to the engine, it just doesn’t work with the traditional BMW kidney grille. (BMW declined to indicate which engine was under this terrifically long hood, only saying that the need for such a large grille was obvious because “a power unit befitting the dynamic character of such a sports saloon most probably requires an ample flow of cooling air.” The long nose and short rear overhangs work well, and the interior does look fabulous.
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Mercedes CLS – More on Naming

It just can’t be helped…

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Has anybody thought about the name of the Mercedes-Benz 4-door coupe?
CLS = CiaLiS

Looks like one of the many pitfalls of alphanumeric naming schemes.


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Automotive Lease Guide Releases Residual Value Awards

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Automotive Lease Guide is an influential and closely watched barometer of the value of brands and vehicles in the USA. ALG’s data are used by leasing companies to set the values for vehicles two and three years in the future and are critical in determining what lease rates a lessee will pay.
While ALG’s Residual Value Awards are not of the ilk of Motor Trend, Automobile, Car & Driver enthusiast awards, they provide an interesting counterpoint to awards based test track measurements, zero to 60 times and seat of the pants opinions. Here is the text of the ALG release…

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ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards honor those vehicles in each automotive segment predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price. For the third consecutive year, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. heads the list with the Honda Brand winning the Industry Brand Residual Value Award. Honda also received two individual segment awards: the Odyssey for the Minivan Segment and the Accord for the Midsize Car Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Honda Odyssey and the second win for the Accord.
Acura, a division of American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is the winner of the Near Luxury Car Segment for the TL.
BMW of North America, LLC has once again made a strong showing by winning the Luxury Brand Residual Value Award for the third consecutive year. MINI USA, a division of BMW of North America, has won the Compact Car Segment for the MINI Cooper for the fourth time.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. took home the most Residual Value Awards this year by winning six individual segment awards: the Avalon for the Fullsize Car Segment, Tacoma Pick-up for the Compact Truck Segment, Tundra for the Fullsize Truck Segment, RAV4 for the Compact SUV Segment, 4Runner for the Midsize SUV Segment, and the Sequoia for the Fullsize SUV Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia; and the third consecutive win for the 4Runner.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC is the winner of this year’s Luxury Car Segment award for the CLS Class.
The Sports Car Segment award this year goes to Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for the 911 Carrera.
And last but not least, the CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) award goes to Land Rover North America, Inc. for the Range Rover Sport.
“In an era of negative pricing and overcapacity, Residual Value excellence is increasingly difficult to achieve,” said Raj Sundaram, President of Automotive Lease Guide. “Both the segment and brand winners clearly demonstrate that quality products combined with effective pricing strategies will rise to the top.” Sundaram added that, “While the top rankings did not change, several brands have shown significant improvement over last year, highlighting the importance manufacturers are placing on residual value as a long-term objective.”
This year’s awards are based on 2006 model year vehicles. For the fourth year, ALG has also included awards for the brand with the highest predicted resale value of all industry and luxury vehicles. The awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and
industry trends. Award winners are featured on http://www.alg.com, The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best performing models into the
public eye.


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